‘They will perhaps also have to come for turnip here’: Putin meets with entrepreneurs

President of Russia Vladimir Putin’s speech at a meeting of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs on 16 March focused on the country’s economic development. The head of the country met with entrepreneurs for the first time since the start of the special military operation. He noted that the Russian economy was already starting to develop according to a new model. So according to him, the closure of Western markets was compensated by the expansion of trade contacts with fast-growing regions. This is why despite all the restrictions and a crisis in international relations, positive tendencies in the economic environment started to gain strength providing just positive outlooks. Read key takeaways from the Russian leader’s speech in Realnoe Vremya’s report.

The head of the country called the trade balance surplus “good music”

Vladimir Putin started his speech talking about positive tendencies in the economy. For instance, a significant rise in gross domestic product was expected in the second quarter of the year. The head of the country reminded the audience that the biggest fall in GDP in 2022 was registered in June.

“I think it was 7.4%. The reasons are known: it is the sanctions war, unprecedented challenges in the global economy and trade and in the system of international relations in general. As you know, these problems weren’t created by us,” he said.

At the same time, the president noted that other countries had never seen the challenges Russia faced in history. But despite this, the economy is moving towards growth. He said that a hard work of thousands of companies and millions of specialists, their responsible, professional attitude to their job, a desire to develop and protect their country are behind these accomplishments.

Also, the head of the country said that the Russian trade balance surplus totalled $332 billion last year — Putin named such figures “good music”:

“Russia’s foreign trade turnover in general rose by 8.1% in 2022, to $850 billion. Exports too grew by almost 20% — 19.9%, while imports reduced by nearly 12% — 11.7%. The trade balance surplus amounted to $332 billion. It is 70% higher than in 2021. We are in the House of Music with you, it is such good music,” he said.

The head of the country said that inflation in March in Russia could be less than 4% a year. According to him, this will be a target figure. At the same time, Putin noted that the growth of retailing turnover in the country in April would aim at 5%, the stability of the labour market, lower inflation, higher salaries are in its foundation.

Vladimir Putin on sanctions: “It is a threat we need to take into account”

Vladimir Putin also said that as early as before the start of the special operation in Ukraine Russia had been gradually refocusing on fast-growing markets. According to him, commodity turnover with these regions has increased at a two-digit pace in the last year and continues growing even now.

“Now the situation is so that it turned out that we didn’t do this in vain. Moreover, we did it slower than we should. But fine, the case is that we simply continue following this trend,” the president said.

Talking about the influence from the West, the president claimed that Eurozone countries are trying to persuade everybody about the soon collapse of Russia’s economy but at the same time their inflation is higher.

“Of course, inflation in Russia will be lower than in Eurozone countries that are endlessly waiting for the collapse of the Russian economy, trying to persuade themselves and our partners about this. But let’s remember a famous American writer again who once said that the rumours of his death were seriously exaggerated. So the same is about our economy,” Putin explained.

Vladimir Putin separately stressed that Russia will overcome the pressure of Western sanctions:

“I perfectly understand both those existing threats and what ill-wishers indicate us saying that problems will appear in Russia mid-term. Yes, it is a threat we should take into account. I am absolutely convinced that we will cope with it,” said the head of the country.

Photo: realnoevremya.ru/Maxim Platonov

“Don’t lay a trap for another person, you will walk into it yourself”

Vladimir Putin touched harvest too. According to him, in Russia it is much better than in European, one will even have to come for turnip to Russia.

“They have reached a point when their officials offer their citizens switching into turnip instead of salad and tomatoes: turnip is a good product. But they will perhaps have to come for turnip here too because our harvest is anyway above the numbers our neighbours have in Europe,” he claimed.

Putin says that a year ago the West forced companies to leave the Russian market and then foreign analysts predicted Russia would have depression and a decline in consumption, promised empty grocery shelves, a mass deficit of products, a downfall in services.

“However, life decided differently: Western countries themselves closely faced the same problems,” Putin indicated.

Then, Putin cited a saying: “Don’t lay a trap for another person, you will walk into it yourself.”

According to the president, businesses should invest in their city

Back to the development of economy inside the country, the president noted that nowadays businesses should miss chances to develop in vacant niches because “you never know when the companies that left will want to return.”

Vladimir Putin stressed that the state will support responsible businesses that respect long-term reputation and a good name, support for their employees in different ways. The Russian leader offered to introduce non-financial report for companies as one of the support measures:

“I offer to think about issuing an annual non-financial report for large enterprises. It will be about what a company did for society, for a specific settlement, city, region, for its country,” he said.

Photo: realnoevremya.ru (archive)

Also, the president put an example of businesses that instead of “working on offshore sites” made life in the country better. According to him, such a responsible business doesn’t separate itself from its city but participates in its development, invests in the education system, health care and other areas.

“Today we see examples of a decent attitude to the business as an entrepreneur’s big mission who do care about working conditions of their companies, their people, their specialists who share their entrepreneurial talent, which is really a talent, not only to get some advantage, overconsumption but also for a common good. And instead of working on offshore sites and spending money obtained here not on essential things, so to speak, special support programmes for employees and their family members are launched, money is spent on roads, hospitals, sports and cultural venues in line with regional authorities, in a word, they make everybody’s life around better,” the head of the country said.

New staff needed to improve administration architecture

The head of the country paid attention to management efficacy too, both in businesses and in the state.

“Administration efficacy must reach a qualitatively new level. I will repeat that it is necessary to actively develop digital platforms, master data-based management models resting on big data,” Putin said.

According to him, modern technologies should be introduced in all sectors of economic and social spheres for such a process. For instance, he reminded the audience about “a big job that started in 2019 with a national project aimed to increase workforce productivity in small and mid-sized enterprises across the country.” He also noted that many companies, including Rosatom, GAZ, KAMAZ also used these approaches in their factories.

“A significant effect of the introduction of smart production was noted in the defence and industrial complex too, which allows increasing the production of goods we need faster,” he concluded.

Photo: realnoevremya.ru/Maxim Platonov

In this regard, Vladimir Putin indicated that new production and management technologies should be mastered simultaneously with the appearance of new staff. So he noted Professionality project. According to him, members of the programme will get modern quality education, skills and qualifications. As the Russian leader stressed, the performance of such plans will require funding both from the government and entrepreneurs.

“I hope for a unity of approaches in this issue and general interest in the result of this work,” he said.

Maxim Kokunin

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